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Friday, September 16, 2022

An Empirical Analysis of the Environmental Law Hiring Market - Erwin Guest Post

The following is a guest post from Alex Erwin:

As readers of this blog are well aware, Sarah Lawsky annually collects data on the legal academic job market.  Her entry-level hiring reports offer fantastic insight into trends in the overall job market.  I personally found her reports incredibly useful when preparing to go on the market.  That said, I have always wondered how general market trends hold up across subject-specific submarkets.  I have seen discussion in the comments and elsewhere about different fields of law having different hiring standards, but, when I went searching, I did not find anything specific about my own field, environmental law.  When I went on the market last year, I wanted to know more about who was getting hired in environmental law and what kind of credentials they had.  Like any good academic, I funneled my job hunt anxiety into data analysis! 

I pooled the spreadsheets from 2011 to 2022 and filtered them down to include only new hires with an interest in environmental law, natural resources law, and/or energy law.  Since 2011, 62 new hires had a recorded interest in at least one of these subjects.  Environmental law professors (ELPs) were somewhere between 5 – 6% of all hires. 

I found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the credentials that seem to be important for success on the overall market were still important in the environmental sub-market.  92% of ELPs either had an additional degree and/or did a fellowship/VAP, and 0 ELPs were hired without either an additional degree, a fellowship/VAP, or a clerkship. 

However, I did find some key differences.  Additional degrees were more common among ELPs (79%) than across the market as a whole (58%).  Conversely, fewer ELPs clerked (43%) than the rest of the market (57%).   To me this makes sense.  Environmental law is a highly interdisciplinary field, and many ELPs chose to presume graduate education in a different environmental field rather than increased generalized legal training via a clerkship.  ELPs had degrees in everything from ecology and genetics to philosophy and history. 

Additionally, ELPs were less likely to have gone to a "T-14" law school for their JD.  60% of new ELPs got their law degree from a “T-14” law school.  75% of new hires on the overall market went to a “T-14” law school.  However, only 3 ELPs were hired at schools ranked higher than the one they attended for law school.  So while the degree institute is perhaps less important in this subfield, it still is clearly a limiting factor on where you are likely to be hired. 

Here are a couple of other interesting tidbits: 

  • Since 2017, 50% of ELPs hired have a doctoral degree.   
  • 66% of ELPs practiced law in some capacity before entering academia. 
  • 60% of ELPs hired were women, while women make up only 46% of hires on the overall market since 2011. 

Finally, two of the last three years have been strong for environmental law hiring (9 – 11% of the overall market in 2020 and 2022).  It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a new normal for environmental law hiring, or if these are merely outlier years.  It is possible that environmental law as a field has become more in demand as topics like climate change and environmental justice become increasingly prominent in public discourse. 

If you want to know more, please check out the full report (available here on SSRN)!  There are interesting statistics I did not include here and lots of pretty graphics.  Please feel free to reach out to me ([email protected]) with corrections, criticism, or comments, if you just want to chat. 

For any aspiring environmental law professors, good luck!  I hope you find this edifying rather than anxiety inducing.  Feel free to reach out.  I am happy to share whatever advice my many mentors shared with me or to talk about my own experience on the market.  Thanks again to Sarah for letting me guest post here and for collecting all of this data! 

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on September 16, 2022 at 11:13 AM in Entry Level Hiring Report | Permalink


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